The post office in Woodbury, VT. #presinpink

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The 11 Most Endangered Places

Fighting battles (often uphill battles) is something we preservationists agree to, knowingly or not, when we jump into the historic preservation field. Not everything is a battle, but some definitely are. There is no way around the battle, you just have to go through it. And some of these projects need a boost. Each year the National Trust for Historic Places accepts nominations for its “11 Most Endangered Places” list. Placement in this list is not a guarantee of success, but it has yielded wonderful success stories over the years.

Do you have a historic site that needs publicity, funding, solutions and help? Odds are, you do. You can nominate a  historic site. Read on for the press release from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Deadline is March 3rd to Submit a Nomination to National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2014 List of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

The deadline is fast approaching to submit a nomination for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2014 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places®. For over a quarter century, this list has highlighted important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk for destruction or irreparable damage. Nominations are due on Monday, March 3, 2014.

“Historic places are a tangible reminder of who we are as a nation,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “For over 25 years, the National Trust’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places has helped shine a spotlight on threatened historic places throughout the nation, helping not only to preserve these places, but also galvanizing local support for the preservation of other unique, irreplaceable treasures that make our nation and local communities special.”

More than 250 threatened one-of-a-kind historic treasures have been identified on the list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places since 1988. Whether these sites are urban districts or rural landscapes, Native American landmarks or 20th-century sports arenas, entire communities or single buildings, the list spotlights historic places across America that are facing a range of threats including insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy. The designation has been a powerful tool for raising awareness and rallying resources to save endangered sites from every region of the country.

The places on the list need not be famous, but they must be significant within their own cultural context, illustrate important issues in preservation and have a need for immediate action to stop or reverse serious threats. All nominations are subject to an extensive, rigorous vetting process.

Follow the National Trust @PresNation and 11 Most list #11Most

For additional information, e-mail 11Most@savingplaces.org or call 202.588.6141. To learn more about the program and to submit a nomination, visit:  www.preservationnation.org/11most

Remember, due this Monday March 3. Consider it weekend homework for a great cause. Find the nomination for here.

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The Historic Rural Schoolhouses of Montana were collectively listed in the 2013 11 Most Endangered Places. Their threat was lack of funding. Photo by Carroll Van West, via the National Trust. Click for source.

The Historic Rural Schoolhouses of Montana were collectively listed in the 2013 11 Most Endangered Places. Their threat was lack of funding. Photo by Carroll Van West, via the National Trust. Click for source.

Side note: “The Most Endangered Places” always sounds like “The Most Dangerous Game.” Is anyone else still stuck in English class? 

A Preservation Video & Essay, of sorts, with a 1945 Tractor

Historic preservation is everywhere. Appreciation for our past is comforting to find beyond our typical conversations, meetings and writings. Recently I found preservation in a unexpected place, from someone who is not a preservationist by trade, schooling, self proclamation, or profession, yet it can easily speak to preservationists. Presenting a video and its companion essay shared by the talented Bus Huxley. I could not give Bus nor his work the introduction they deserve, so read on and enjoy the video. I recommend that you watch, read, watch. 

By Bus Huxley

A few years ago I was care-taking an old farm when I came across the chronological collection of the N-news. This is a quarterly publication dedicated to Ford and Ferguson tractors from the middle part of the last century. I poured over each magazine, starting from the earliest and looking forward to the next installment as a kid anticipates the new issue of a comic book. Hidden in these pages were countless tips for maintenance, improvements, operation techniques and a detailed and rich history of Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson’s brilliant and tumultuous partnership and collaboration. I was eager to glean as much information about the first machine I ever piloted while perched on my dad’s lap at seven years old.

At its essence, my 1945 Ford 2n is a combination of simple machines working together to make hard jobs easy. I stopped in to milk an old timer at his Ford shop for sage mechanical consultation in northern Vermont one snowy afternoon. After dolling out the solution to my problem, he began to wax on about the year 1942, when he and his brother were dairy farmers, and had always used horses. The look in his face as he described the vast improvement in their two lives upon purchasing a Ford 9n for the farm was fantastic. They no longer needed to grow ten more acres of hay for their pulling power. When the tractor went to sleep, it did not need to eat or drink, and it could lift massive weight with an ingenious hydraulic lift mounted on the back of the rig.

Operating this tractor most of my life, I’ve mown countless acres of field, twitched endless cords of firewood from the forest, moved piles of rocks, pushed tons and tons of snow, and trailered decades of split firewood into the barn for the winter. It’s also taught me how to work within very specific parameters of power and ability. This is by no means the strongest machine in the world, and two wheel drive has some limitations, but with careful planning and gentle throttle manipulation, the old Ford/Ferguson can do all I ever ask of it. And I can fix it! Anything on it, no matter what, can be mended. I have no idea what kind of steel or magic alloy this was made of, but there is not a bolt on it that won’t thread out if I ask it. There is practically no rust on it, and its been outside for 70 years!

Don’t get me wrong and chalk me up as some nostalgic troglodyte, wishing for the good old days. I love the internet in my pocket, connected to my telephone that also has the sharpest camera I own, but I also love a well designed, innovative and wonderfully overbuilt contraption like the old Ford tractors. I’ll own this rig for the rest of my life, and look forward to working together whenever we get the chance.

Thank you, Bus!

Preservation Photos #221

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The Barton Academy and Graded School is still in operation as an elementary school. This 1907 building is seen here on a crisp, sunny winter afternoon in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

Preservation on the Ground: Woodbury’s Armory in Burlington, VT

A historic building that sits empty for ten years is not an untold story in preservation, even if it appears to be in a prime location. The brick armory on Main Street in Burlington, VT sat empty since 2003, leaving passersby to wonder about its fate. What they did not know: this story is different. 

The Armory in its day as Hunt's Mill & Mining. Photo source: Housing Vermont. Click for link.

The Armory in its day as R.W. Hunt Mill & Mining Company. Photo source: Housing Vermont. Click for link.

Setting the Stage: Woodbury’s Armory

Urban Woodbury built the Armory in 1904 and leased the space to the National Guard. In its storied history, the Armory has served as a car dealership, R.W. Hunt Mill & Mining Company, Sha-Na-Na’s Night Club, and as office space. Circa 2000, a popular local music venue was looking to buy the space, but couldn’t decipher logistics with the City of Burlington. Fire struck in 2003, leaving the building unoccupied and seemingly forgotten after 100 years of use.

Enter Redstone

Who would want a burned-out, muddled, old building? Most would shy away. Fortunately, not Redstone, a company well known and respected for its historic preservation and rehabilitation of Vermont buildings such as the Chace Mill in Winooski and the Maltex Building in Burlington’s South End. After the fire, Redstone purchased and mothballed the building, and began working on the dilemma of the Armory’s next chapter. Erik Hoekstra, manager of the project, met with me on a surprisingly warm January afternoon for a tour of the building and project talk.

View from the corner of Main Street and Pine Street.

View from the corner of Main Street and Pine Street.

The Big (Block) Picture

The real story is that the building was never forgotten. Like its past, the future of Woodbury’s Armory is part of a bigger picture: the redevelopment of the Main-Pine-King-St. Paul block in the City of Burlington. The block includes TD Bank, Hinds Lofts, a mixed use block (King Street Housing), and a handful of private residences.

The Armory is located at the corner of Main Street and Pine Street. Note its location between the waterfront and Church Street.

The Armory is located at the corner of Main Street and Pine Street. Note its location between the waterfront and Church Street.

In addition to being a part of this block redevelopment, the Armory stands as an important link between Burlington’s successful Church Street pedestrian mall and the popular Lake Champlain Waterfront.

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A landscaping plan, courtesy of Redstone, edited by author. Main Street is at the top of the image.

As Hoekstra and Redstone worked to develop a successful plan, the company invested in new windows, new stone sills, brick repointing and a new roof in 2007 for the Armory.  Not forgotten, but rather, the building was waiting for a sound, successful plan to germinate. According to Hoekstra, parking and finances were great challenges of this project. Parking is at a premium in the City of Burlington, and a building like the Armory didn’t come with parking. Working with property acquired from TD Bank, Redstone was able redesign the remaining open block space – then a surface parking lot – and provide enough parking.  In terms of finances, the Armory could not succeed alone as standalone project. It had to be bigger. It needed the entire block.   In the end, there are many funding partners and sources including Vermont State Tax Credits and New Market Tax Credits.

The first floor of the Armory shows where a pool will be located and where the floor above had to be removed.

The first floor of the Armory shows where a pool will be located and where the floor above had to be removed.

The Plan

As of February 2014, construction is well underway at the Armory. The Main-Pine-King-St. Paul block will soon be home to a new hotel, parking garage, and retail space. Woodbury’s Armory, on the Main Street/Pine Street corner will serve as the hotel lobby for the Hilton Garden Inn. The first floor of the Armory will house the hotel pool and retail space, hopefully a restaurant to add to Burlington’s eclectic mix of eateries. To the south and extending east from Armory will be an addition to house the 2 story parking garage with 4 floors of hotel rooms above. Sensitive to streetscape and the historic context, the garage/hotel addition will have different height elevation on St. Paul Street and Pine Street. Guests will access the lobby from the porte-cochère off Main Street.

The King Street and Main Street elevations of the project. Photo courtesy of Redstone.

The King Street and Main Street elevations of the project. Photo courtesy of Redstone.

St. Paul Street and Pine Street elevations. Courtesy of Redstone.

St. Paul Street and Pine Street elevations. Courtesy of Redstone.

Preservationists might ask why a chain hotel? Hoekstra said that although Redstone hoped for a boutique hotel, banks were only agreeable to funding an established, large business with a loyal customer base. The Hilton Garden Inn will be operated under a franchise agreement with Hilton, but will be locally owned by Redstone and partners.  Hilton has been amenable in terms of designing a unique space and incorporating the Armory’s historic features into the rehabilitation. The 139 room hotel is set to open by the end of 2014.

The Armory under construction, February 2014.

The Armory under construction, February 2014.

Why the Armory & Historic Preservation?

As Erik Hoekstra stated, Redstone prefers preservation and rehabilitation projects because of the challenge and commitment to the community. Sprawl development does not give that same satisfaction of project completion. Urban infill, smart growth, and redevelopment make the job more interesting.

One of the best finds of the restoration was uncovering the Armory carved into the granite lintel.

One of the best finds of the restoration was uncovering the Armory carved into the granite lintel.

Hoekstra credits his interest in historic buildings and development to growing up in several historic houses, including a Sears Roebuck Catalog house in LaGrange, IL. Hoekstra studied real estate and finance and worked in New York City before coming to Vermont in 2001 to work with Housing Vermont and later Redstone. He studied Real Estate Development in the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Interested in Hoekstra’s line of work? He advises that there are many roads to working in development and historic preservation. Some include working in construction, property management, finance or a non-profit organization like Housing Vermont. Hoekstra says that no matter the type of company, the process is still the same: Design, permit, finance, legal, construction.

When asked about his favorite part of this project, Hoekstra said that it’s seeing all of the puzzle pieces fit together. And that is always a preservation success story.

A view looking north on Pine Street.

A view looking north on Pine Street.

Winter Festivals in Historic Places

Are you in need of traveling? Or in need of good weather? It’s that time of year to be wishing for such things. But we have four more weeks of winter. Accepting that fact, I’m adding a few winter festivals to travel-list, hoping to remember these for next year. There are plenty of small festivals, including many in Vermont (Stowe, Burlington, Middlebury), but I’m thinking of larger festivals or carnivals.

(1) Winterlude in Ottawa, Canada – particularly for the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’ largest skating rink. The entire site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A winter destination for next year: skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa.

A winter destination for next year: skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. Photo from wikipedia.

(2) Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, particularly for the ice castle.

An ice palace and fireworks at Saranac Lake in the early 1900s. Click for photo source.

An ice palace and fireworks at Saranac Lake in the early 1900s. Click for photo source.

(3) MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE (Montreal High Lights Festival) for vibrant culture, lots of lights, music and a big party in downtown Montreal.

What’s on your list?